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Food and beverage projects to remain stable in 2009

According to a recent report entitled Navigating the Currents of Change, food and beverage companies have not yet scaled back plans for capital outlays, but they have indicated large expansion projects will be carefully scrutinized. Indications are that if financial markets continue to deteriorate and consumer confidence falls further, investments in equipment and new facilities may be lowered from what is currently being projected.

Recently, capital spending at the manufacturing level has been robust and is expected to remain fairly healthy, provided the economy does not edge closer to a recession.

Next year, plans for productivity improvements and energy-efficiency projects account for the majority of planned projects. These are typically low-investment, high-return projects focusing on energy conservation, incremental capacity gains and reductions in manpower. Total project costs usually do not exceed $1 million and typically involve the replacement of electric drives, pumps and automation.

Several projects ranging in value from $50 million to more than $200 million are expected to move forward, including a new cheese-processing facility in Colorado and a poultry processing plant in Alabama. One of the biggest threats, however, to capital expenditures larger than $20 million may be the difficulty in obtaining favorable financing terms if credit markets don’t begin to loosen up.

Recession will be deep, recovery strong

Nairman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, says the US and global economies will struggle through a deep recession that will lead to a modest recovery in 2010 and a more robust recovery in 2011. Behravesh cites four positive factors leading to his prognosis: falling food and fuel prices, swift and coordinated responses from governments to the crisis and any aftershocks, and massive amounts of liquidity pumped into the system already by central banks-with more to come and further fiscal stimulus. Noting the grim findings of his forecast, Behravesh said that while the “full fury” of the financial crisis and oil shock is beginning to dissipate, the full impact on the real economy has yet to be felt. Nevertheless, given the recent dramatic reversal in the price of oil and other commodities and the gradual thawing of credit markets plus the large amounts of fiscal and monetary stimuli that have already been set in motion, the recovery is likely to be more robust than many pundits are currently predicting.

Cargill to close feed manufacturing facility

Cargill will cease operations at its Springdale, AR animal feed manufacturing facility on November 14, 2008. Production, sales and customer service support will be transitioned to Cargill animal feed facilities in Oklahoma City and Kansas City.

Operated by Cargill since 1978, the feed mill was originally built to meet the needs of area dairy producers. According to Cargill officials, the continuing reduction in dairy herd numbers in recent years has lessened demand to the point where maintaining the operation no longer makes business sense.

In other news, Cargill signed an option-to-purchase agreement to acquire the grain elevator at Madison, MN owned by Madison Energy LLC, a subsidiary of Glacial Lakes Energy, LLC. Located 45 miles east of Watertown, SD, the Madison grain elevator is equipped with a grain dryer and features a 1.2 million-bushel storage capacity.

Automation News

OMAC Integration Symposium

The second annual OMAC Integration Symposium will be held at the Partners in THINC Facility in Charlotte, NC, December 3-4, 2008. The event agenda will focus on Total System Evolution-a theme that embraces all industries and is vital to the advancement and improvement of processes, business functions and the ability to meet customers’ changing needs.

This event will feature optional tours of the Partners in THINC facility and Okuma America Corporation headquarters, a keynote presentation, the annual OMAC members’ meeting, presentations from many industries, hands-on demonstrations and various networking opportunities.

Symposium attendees can participate in the following presentations and demonstrations: “Packaging Line Integration with PackML;” “Robot Bin Picking;” “Integrated Control System Design in a PLM Context;” “Designing Products to be Standards Friendly;’’ “The Interaction of the Various Machine Tools, Accessory Devices and Tooling;” “Utilization of Wireless Sensor Technology and Vendor Independent Fieldbus Interfaces in Industrial Automation;” “OPC Architectures in Manufacturing;” “Weathering the Storm: Growing and Automating an Emerging Company in Turbulent Times;” “Model Driven Embedded Systems Design Environment for Industrial Automation (MEDIA);” “Advanced Tool Control and Management;” and “CNC and Automation Integration.”

For more information, visit

Field service management market to grow

The worldwide market for field service management (FSM) solutions is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.8% over the next five years, says a study from the ARC Advisory Group. The market was valued at $364.6 million in 2007 and is forecasted to reach $532 million in 2012.

A number of publicly traded, best-of-breed FSM suppliers have been reporting strong revenue growth over the last few years. The FSM revenues of these suppliers registered a CAGR of 17% for the 2004-2007 period. Solid growth will continue and is expected to be driven largely by an increase in maintenance outsourcing and OEM post-sales service to asset-intensive manufacturers.

Novel technologies, such as mobile wireless, geographic information systems and remote asset monitoring, are expected to stimulate growth in the FSM market. In addition, FSM software has enabled service organizations to more effectively administer the complexities associated with managing an overabundance of information and a large, often geographically dispersed workforce.

For more information on the study, Field Service Management Solutions Worldwide Outlook, visit

Fuel cell decreases plant's external energy requirements

Pepperidge Farm Inc. installed a 1.2 megawatt (MW) fuel cell power plant at its state-of-the-art bakery in Bloomfield, CT. Manufactured by FuelCell Energy Inc., the fuel cell is now the biggest power source for this 260,000-sq.-ft. manufacturing facility, and represents the largest single commercial fuel cell power plant in the US.

“This initiative reflects the strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability that is held by both Pepperidge Farm and our parent company, Campbell Soup Company,” says Pat Callaghan, president, Pepperidge Farm.

The fuel cell initiative is supported in part by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, a ratepayer fund administered by Connecticut Innovations Inc., which provided a grant of $3.5 million to offset part of the construction. The new fuel cell supplies about 57% of the total electrical needs of the bakery.

Combined with a smaller, already installed 250 kW fuel cell, the two fuel cells together fulfill 70% of the plant’s electrical needs. Both operate 24/7. The fuel cells operate on natural gas and convert it internally to hydrogen for operation. Heat generated by the fuel cell is also used in the bakery.

Food Safety News

Listeria still crawling around

While the major Listeria outbreak in Canada has subsided, two unrelated recalls still show the possibility of Listeria contamination in foods north and south of the Canadian border.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency warned Canadian citizens in Atlantic Canada not to consume RTE roast beef and sandwiches sold at certain stores as the beef may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes. This is a follow-up recall resulting from the original recall incident of roast beef conducted by Les Salaisons Desco Inc.

According to FDA, Portland Shellfish Co., Inc. is voluntarily recalling frozen, Cooked-Claw Island brand lobster claw and knuckle meat, Lot 25508 packaged in 2-lb. bags, because it may be infected with Listeria.

Avoid sludge, but how?

Consumers should choose foods produced without sludge and avoid the use of sewage-based fertilizer products in home gardens, says a guide, entitled Smart Guide on Sludge Use in Food Production, from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Sewage sludge can contain disease-causing microbes, synthetic chemicals and heavy metals that can cause acute and chronic disease. Many of these contaminants can persist in soil for centuries and can enter the food system through crops grown on sludge-treated land, as well as animals that graze on contaminated land.

Currently there is no labeling requirement for food produced on land treated with sewage sludge, and consumers may find it difficult to know if they are using a sludge-based fertilizer product. Given the risk factors, sludge usage should not be allowed on agricultural land or home gardens.

The EPA has set minimum standards for sludge contaminant content and application, but these standards include no restrictions on synthetic chemical content, weak limits on heavy metals and inadequate protections for pathogen content. The EPA’s oversight has come under heavy criticism following a February 2008 11th Circuit Court ruling in which “the fairness and objectivity of the EPA’s opinions with respect to the sludge land application program” was called into question. The judge found evidence that “extraordinary steps” have been taken by senior officials “to quash scientific dissent, and any questioning of the EPA’s biosolids program.”

For more information, visit

Free food safety kit for food industry employees

FDA, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Agriculture, launched its food defense awareness training kit for first line food industry employees. The training targets these individuals because they play an important role in helping to keep our nation’s food supply safe from the farm to the table.

Food industry management will use the FIRST tool kit as part of ongoing employee food defense training programs. The tool kit focuses on five key points that industry and businesses can use to educate first line workers about the risks of food contamination. Each of the letters in the FIRST acronym describes an action that a first line employee can take to mitigate risks of contamination. They are:

F-Follow company food defense plan and procedures

I-Inspect your work area and surrounding areas

R-Recognize anything out of the ordinary

S-Secure all ingredients, supplies and finished product

T-Tell management if you notice anything unusual or suspicious.

Single copies of the kit are available in English and Spanish. The kit is free to employees and includes one DVD, a training poster and on-screen instructions. Copies can be obtained by ordering online from the Food Defense & Terrorism Web site, A Web-ready version of the kit will also be available.